We’re well in the swing of things here at Oakelbrook Mill after Christmas and New Year. I headed to Scotland to see my family over Christmas, which was lovely but as ever with horses, life goes on pretty much as normal. Admittedly there has been a bit more cake, several boxes of mince pies and a whole load of chocolate going about due to our super owners who are adamant in their opinion that we need feeding up; who are we to argue I say!
Alan is a certified and well documented chocoholic and he won’t mind me saying that his ability to consume a variety of cocoa-related foodstuffs is quite remarkable. The rest of us are not shy either however, and I am firm in my belief that if you eat while moving then the calories are cancelled out automatically!
Normal life follows a fairly regular routine here with all the horses being worked before we stop for lunch. Charlotte and Carl start riding somewhere between 7.30 and 8am and basically we keep going until we’re finished! Carl strongly believes that the horses’ stables should be their place to relax and so everything we do to them in terms of preparation for exercise, doing up afterwards and general grooming is done in the cross tie area of our indoor school. This means that the yard itself is actually very quiet, whereas the indoor complex is a hive of activity.
Most of the time there will be at least four horses being ridden at once between the two schools and out in the fields that form part of Oakelbrook. I do love the fact that all of the horses go for a hack out in the field or a down the drive before and after exercise in the school. Of course it gives them a good warm up and cool down but it also means they get to see the big wide world on a daily basis. Day to day encounters can include anything from negotiating a flock of animated guinea fowl to crossing water obstacles in the field when it’s rained a lot here!
We have proper old turf and a nice little pull up the hill in the top field and so we often canter the horses up there which they love. I like to jack my stirrups up as far as possible which means that they barely come off the end of the flaps — still being in a dressage saddle after all — but I hate not being able to get up off their backs to let them move a bit. Must be my racing roots!
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We turn the horses out as much as possible (although the weather is not helpful at this time of year!) and horses also hack twice per week on Wednesdays and Saturdays. The hacking days are an integral part of the horses’ routine and we’re quite a well known sight to the locals heading out with a team of horses along the roads around here.
Just like a professional human athlete, our horses do train hard for their careers, but I like to think they have a nice time doing it. We always look to make it all work as slickly as possible of course, but when we’re in full swing it does feel like a well oiled machine. It’s safe to say that Carl’s methods are pretty tried and tested, and the successes of the set up and routine speak for themselves. On that note, on we go to do it all over again tomorrow.